This walk explores the Kirkharle Estate, with its contrasting landscape.
From the car park walk out of the entrance you drove in through and turn right.
Walk up the road, so that Kirkharle Courtyard is on your right and just before you reach the cattle grid turn left off the road and pass through a gate (public footpath signpost).
Continue up the path with a fence on your left and a ‘sod cast’ on your right, with a fence the far side of it.
You reach and pass over a ladder stile taking you into a lane. Turn right and pass through the gate. Ignore the way-marked gate on your right but continue along the track, with a wall on your right.
The track drops down and bends around to the left. Continue along it and you lose the wall on your right as you continue, passing a small marker post on your left (indicating – Defra conservation walk).
As you reach a corner in the fence on your right, turn right off the track (marker post), passing in front of the fence corner.
Walk along the tree-lined lane, so that the fence is on your left and a line of trees on your right.
The fence on your left has been erected on what is called a ‘sod cast’.
In the past this would have been a stock proof boundary and would have been built by alternate layers of sod and stones. They still provide excellent shelter for stock in bad weather conditions.
Pass a marker post and continue on before reaching and passing through a small gate.
The path drops down and you pass over the Vicarage Burn on a small footbridge.
Continue along the tree-lined lane as you slowly rise up to a small wooden gate. Pass through the gate and ignore the road going off to your left and continue straight on, passing a small marker post on your right-hand side. The track you are now following is far better underfoot.
As the main track bends around to your right, continue straight on, along the track in front of you, following the arrows on the marker post.
Continue along the track as it gradually rises up, before dropping down and crossing a small burn. You pass a number of marker posts on the way.
On reaching a Tarmac road, cross directly over it, passing through a small wooden gate located to the right of a larger one.
Continue along the lovely tree-lined track and reach and pass through a large wooden gate. Proceed along the track, you then reach and pass through a further two large gates which are located in very close proximity.
As you continue along the lane you have the A696 on your right.
Pass another marker post and then the track bends around to the right as you pass down to and through a small gate taking you on to the road.
Turn left, ignoring the footpath going off to your left. Walk along the grass verge for about 100 yards. When you reach a road going up to your left, turn along it (road sign – Carrycoats 6, Great Bavington 4, Plashetts 2 ½).
Climb up on the fence-lined single-track road passing a sign saying ‘stray animals’ on your left. As you climb you can see the rig and furrows in the field. They tell you that the field has been cultivated and improved in the past when increased productivity was required of these upland areas.
As you continue along the road you cross a cattle grid and after this you lose the fence on your right.
Ignore the footpath going off to your right, but follow the road as it bears to your left, crossing a cattle grid.
As you continue to gradually climb you can see the village of Kirkwhelpington away to your left.
Kirkwhelpington sits on a mound overlooking the River Wansbeck. St Bartholomew’s Church can be picked out, rising above the houses.
The church was founded in Norman times. Inside, despite Victorian restorations, the church maintains its medieval character with its impressive tower arch decorated with zigzag moulding.
Follow the road as it bears around to your right, ignoring the public footpath signpost in front of you.
You now have a stone wall on your right. The wall consists of two separate ones, with a cavity in the middle. This is filled with smaller stones. Throughout its height it has two lots of through stones which tie in the two outside walls together. The top is finished with some top stones or coping stones which also ties the two outside walls together.
A little way up the road, before you reach the farm, turn left off the road at the public bridleway sign. Walk in the direction this sign is pointing as you cross the field.
Pass a public bridleway marker post as you start to climb. You have what looks like the remains of a ‘sod cast’ on your left. As you reach the brow of the hill you pass another marker post and continue on, following the prominent path as you gradually start to drop down. If there are sheep in the surrounding fields they are more than likely a breed called mules. These brown and white-faced sheep are one of the most popular breeds and are found on much of the lower lying pasture in the UK.
Mules are not really a true breed but a crossbreed between a Blue Faced Leicester father and a Blackface/ Swaledale mother. This breeding improves the productivity quite considerably.
Just before you reach the corner of the field you can see the remains of an old sheep wash and pens.
The sheep pens would have been used to gather the sheep into, so that such jobs as worming can take place. Also in the past you washed your sheep before shearing them. This was often a case of damming a burn and pushing your sheep through the small pond or ‘dip’ that you had created.
Nowadays the fleeces are washed after shearing by the wool manufacturers, during the processing stage.
You reach and pass through a large wooden gate in the corner of the field, walk to the tarmac road and turn left along it with a fence that has fallen into disrepair on your right.
Pass through a large metal gate, taking you through a wall line and as you continue on you have a stone wall on your right.
As you reach the line of trees, turn right off the road, passing through a wooden gate taking you on to the tree-lined lane you walked earlier in the walk. Pass a small marker post on your left, just before the track passes over a small burn. The track rises up and then drops down. At the junction bear right (straight on), walking in the direction of the white arrows. Where the track turns sharply to your right continue straight on, leaving the track as you reach and pass through a small wooden gate.
Continue on the tree-lined grassy track as you drop down, crossing the Vicarage burn, before rising up and passing through the small gate.
Continue on with the fence on your right. As you reach the corner in the fence on your right you turn left along the track, following the white arrows as you retrace your steps.
As you reach the wood on your left, look at the very large stones that have been built into the bottom of the stone wall.
These large boulders will have been moved off the fields as the land became more productive and the wall has been built on top of them.
Continue on with the wall on your left.
Don’t pass through the metal gate in front of you, but turn left and pass through the large wooden gate (public footpath arrow).
Walk across the field heading for the telegraph pole in front of the lower roofed buildings. These lower roofed buildings are located between the large house (on right) and the church (on left).
Turn left alongthe single-track road and pass through the green gate taking you into the church grounds.
After visiting the church pass through the gate and bear left along the road and continue along it, ignoring the path going off to your right.
On your right you have a standing stone in memory of Robert Lorraine who in 1483 was murdered by the Scots at this spot when he was returning home from church. The current stone was erected in 1758 to replace an earlier one.
Continue along the road, cross the cattle grid before you turn left back into the Kirkharle Courtyard car park.